Leaving your children home alone can be nerve wracking. It never quite feels like they’re really mature enough to handle it, and all sorts of what-ifs can run through your mind. Nevertheless, your kid will have to shoulder more responsibilities as he ages, and eventually you’ll have to step out of the house without leaving a babysitter behind.
Before you do so, you’re going to have to sit down with your child and talk about safety and security inside your house, including how to operate any existing security systems, what to do if something happens and what rules he should always keep in mind.
Here are five necessary tips to teach your child about home security before leaving them alone in the house for the first time.
1. Working the security alarm
If you have a security system installed in your home, it’s important to give your child a hands-on demonstration of how to operate the system. Explain what it does, how it works and what they should do when you leave the house. Most alarm systems are connected to the phone, which means you should also teach them how to answer the phone for your security company and what they should say, whether it was a false alarm or a serious threat being reported.
Make sure your child remembers the passcode. Have them recite it out loud, and warn them not to write it down or give it out to strangers.
2. Stranger danger
Your child should understand the basic concept of “don’t talk to strangers,” including strangers who knock at the door when parents are out of the house. Many parents assume that avoiding answering the door to people you don’t recognize would come instinctually to children. But it’s quite common for younger kids to open the door without checking to see who it is, and kids are often reluctant to be rude to adults.
Emphasize to your child that they should always check who’s at the door before opening it, they should never open the door to a stranger, and they probably shouldn’t even open the door to someone they recognize if they weren’t expecting visitors.
3. Lock doors and windows
An important step in home security that children often fail to take seriously or remember is keeping all the doors and windows closed and locked. Open doors and windows are easy entries for any potential burglars or home intruders, and actually using your existing security system is probably the best way to be protected by it.
Children are forgetful, of course, which means on occasion they’re going to forget this important lesson. But it’s important to reiterate and emphasize everytime you leave the house - lock the door behind mom, keep the doors and windows closed and locked, and don’t open them for anybody.
4. What’s off limits inside
For many parents, who can hurt your child while you’re gone isn’t as much of a concern as what your child can do to hurt himself while you’re gone. Children, especially younger or more rambunctious children, are prone to minor injuries on a regular basis. And there are certainly plenty of things around the house they could hurt themselves on, from the knives in the kitchen to the doors of the bedrooms to stairs anywhere in the house.
Teach your kids about behaving responsibly in the house, and make sure they know what things they’re not allowed to touch. A common rule for children is to stay out of the kitchen while parents are gone, since there are too many things for a child to get injured on.
Along with reminding your child to be careful, you should also make sure your child knows who to contact in case he does get hurt. He should have your phone number, the number of a nearby trusted neighbor or family member, and the number of emergency services.
5. When to leave the house
You can try your best to keep your child safe inside, but sometimes a situation will force your child to go outside. You should make sure you go over scenarios where it would be appropriate to leave the house with your child. For example, if an intruder breaks into the house, and you’ve already installed a home security system, it would be safe to try to quietly leave and flee to a neighbor’s house. If there appears to be a fire inside, they should absolutely try to leave as soon as possible. If they’re seriously injured, they shouldn’t be afraid to call 9-1-1 and be transported away. There are all sorts of things that could go wrong when you leave your child alone in the house, but it’s important to remember that very few of those things will go wrong. Your child will probably be fine - so long as you take time to go over these basic home security rules.